This last month was a big one. I turned 30 and we had our ten-year anniversary. I'll have a recap on my birthday soon, but today I've got marriage on my mind. It's hard to believe how fast and how slow ten years can go.
We got married when I was still a baby (just barely 20), and Soren was almost 25. At the time I knew I was young, but besides college, getting married was next on my list. We had met in 2005, but hadn't started dating until 2006, and after we started dating, we got married really quickly. It was a pretty instant feeling of "You are the one for me." I'll have to share our love story one of these days, but today I'm actually going to share the tough part instead.
I've said more than once around here that our first seven years were really hard. And those seven years overlapped with the start of this blog, so for readers who have been with me since the beginning, you might remember me talking about marital struggles. One reader even said she wished I wouldn't talk about it so much because it made her sad. :( I didn't think I talked about it that much, but I was honest to some degree about not getting along well enough for fun date nights or having a terrible time when we did try to go on one.
I don't remember everything about the rough times because we've had at least three solid good years where things have gotten better and better. And Soren told me last night that he doesn't remember things ever being bad, he just remembers them as the way they are now. (Eye roll.) Okay, so I remember things being really hard, and I think that my growth is what has changed a lot of those things for me. And his growth too, because we have both changed in the last ten years.
So a follower asked me the other day what made the first part of marriage so hard for us, and I think I've figured some of it out. I'm far enough away from it now that I think I can rationally look at things and see what the struggle was. And the reason we had such a hard time was because of how different we are. We are really, really different.
When we were dating, we could see that we had the most important things in common. We both shared the same faith and the same long-term goals when it came to family, family life, and the kind of marriage we wanted. What we didn't have in common was how we approach struggles, how we disagree, how we face challenges, how we react, or pretty much anything that you deal with day to day. We have different interests, different talents, and different weaknesses. And not only that, his talents were/are my weaknesses and vice versa. We both really liked the good things about ourselves, which happened to be the things the other person was lacking. We were constantly seeing the other person's shortcomings in things that came easily to us. Soren also tends to be really honest and blunt, whereas I stuffed things and raged on the inside. It was a bad combination. We were both really unrefined when it came to working with someone else who had exactly what we were missing.
As single people, we were successful all day long! He was super athletic and friendly and smart. He excelled in his classes, and everyone loved him. I was super organized and scheduled and accomplished. We both worked through school and were thrifty and hustled to achieve our goals. But as we got to know each other more and more after we were married, we started to see that the reasons we were each successful on our own were not the same. Operating as married people was very different from the single life!
Because we didn't communicate the same way or really operate the same way, we struggled to get along from day one. He had a low tolerance for some of the ways I did things, and I got really hurt by the smallest amount of honesty or sharpness coming from him. We were just so out of sync for so long. We tried counseling a little bit before we left college, but the first improvement there came from me going to eating disorder counseling on my own. I had not worked through or grown out of a lot of the insecurities or struggles I had from my teenage years, and those definitely caused us to struggle more.
We moved to Seattle after college, and things really got a lot worse and slightly better while we were there. They got better because our first little guy, Easton, was born, and he gave us our first common love. We both loved him, and it felt great to finally have something in common. We also started One Little Belt, which gave us something else in common. But things also got worse because I got really depressed while we were there. Being in a new place with a husband who worked a ton and who I didn't get along with even when he was home was hard. Put having few friends, lots of rain and constant cloudiness on top of it all, and I can say I wasn't myself. I REALLY struggled and legit was crazy some days. Props to Soren for sticking it out then. I know I was tough to live with.
We didn't stay in Seatttle long because the future didn't look bright there. A change needed to happen, so we looked at moving to the Midwest to be near family and to have a chance at an affordable house. We were still arguing frequently, and I was still getting my feelings hurt regularly. I didn't forgive easily, so at that point Soren was just in the dog house constantly. He wasn't happy, but I was miserable.
We started marriage counseling again, and with the right counselor at the right time, things started to change. I knew divorce wasn't an option, if anything because of my kids, which I admit wasn't a great place to be working from. Soren wasn't a bad guy, I just didn't know how to love him anymore. But my kids loved their dad, and what I wanted most was for us to be a happy family and the awesome power couple that I had once thought we would be. It looked pretty hopeless to me, but it was so confusing as to why. Why were we in this place? Why didn't we get along if we were both so awesome on our own? Soren was frustrated that I wasn't 100% committed, and I was just so shocked that things were so hard. Hope was abundantly lacking at that time in my life.
In the few years that we went to counseling, things started to shift. I was finally growing up and starting to be humble enough to forgive, and Soren was softening his words. As I forgave him and learned to understand what he meant and not what or how he said it, I could look past the roughness. My skin had to get a little thicker, but once it did, I could see that he wasn't out to hurt me. He was always trying to help me be my best me. His strengths were exactly what I needed to work on, and what better person to help me than him? His weaknesses were also what I could help him with, and together we could both help each other grow. That took a lot of humility. And it still does, every day.
Since starting Nickel & Suede, we have really been able to enjoy and appreciate each other's talents. He is so good at all of the things that I am not. And now I'm so glad for it! He can solve problems and make business decisions and handle tough situations in ways I can't. I can choose the colors and the styling and the creative things in ways that he doesn't understand, yet he trusts me completely. N&S couldn't grow as a business without both of our talents, and that has helped us realize how much that bleeds over into real life.
Our kids are better for having parents with unique strengths. Our family as a unit is better. We are each constantly changing and adjusting because of things we learn from each other. Those things make life hard, but they make things better.
I used to feel so stuck and so bugged at other couples who seemed to have an easy marriage and to be enjoying those early honeymoon years. And I wondered what was wrong with us. I think a lot of it was lessons that we hadn't each learned yet, but I really think it was because of our STRONG differences. Some people marry because they are so similar. They like the same things and have many of the same strengths. And that has GOT to be easier! But that's not what God had planned for us. He knew we both needed some polishing in different ways, and so He gave us each other. And if we didn't have the mutual faith in our marriage covenant, then I think we might have broken. It was a lot of pressure and enduring and stretching for those first years.
Of course with kids and life and all of the normal busy-ness, we didn't actually get to do anything on the big day of our recent anniversary, but that was okay. Which in itself is a sign of where we are at. I didn't have high expectations of proof that we were happy at ten years because that proof shows up every day. We are still working on a lot of things, and life definitely gets in the way of our marriage all of the time. But we wake up every day committed and knowing the other person is doing their best. And there is no way I'd rather have it.